“Acceptance is not submission; it is an acknowledgement of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you’re going to do about it.” Kathleen Casey Theisen
Seven years ago, my then partner and I decided to live together. After a few months of dating, I moved into his house with him and his two adult sons.
The first few months were wonderful; spending unlimited time together, doing various activities, sharing experiences and just being in each other’s company. It was absolutely delightful.
However, after some time, the so-called honeymoon began to fade. I started seeing everything differently, especially my new roommates.
You see, prior to that time, I lived alone and was extremely particular about how I kept my space. I enjoyed having everything neat and tidy, but my partner and his sons were not so inclined.
I complained constantly about how they did things because it was so different to how I did things and by my standards not good enough. I felt frustrated and bothered by my living situation, which also eventually caused a strain on my relationship.
When this happened, I knew I had to take a different approach because clearly making demands to try to change my environment was not working, it was actually making things worse.
One day while meditating about the situation, I had an eureka moment. I saw how I was creating my own discomfort and frustration and was also negatively affecting everyone else.
I was in a state of resistance to what was and because I resisted the situation, the resistance caused the unpleasantness I experienced. The thing is, no one was making me frustrated, I was doing that job all by myself because I refused to accept what was.
“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”- Carl Yung
Quite often, when we encounter undesirable situations, we unconsciously slip into a state of non-acceptance, wherein we refuse to embrace the situation. We sometimes experience disbelief and denial, refuting that it happened or we may feel unjustified as to why it happened to us.
According to spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, whose teachings are based on acceptance, it is our resistance to situations that is the true cause of our emotional pain and suffering and not the actual situation itself.
This can be challenging to receive, as logically, prior to the undesirable experience, life was pretty okay but things only changed when the situation occurred.
While on one level this is true, we often fail to remember that our experiences are truly determined by our perception. The experience in itself is neutral; we are the ones who ascribe meaning to it.
“Accept then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it… this will miraculously transform your whole life.”- Eckhart Tolle
Many of us are under the misguided belief that acceptance of an undesirable situation means that we agree with it, condone it, or even like it. By no means is this what acceptance means. Instead, it is the acknowledgement that the situation occurred and there is nothing we can do to change the fact that it occurred. However, from this place of inner centeredness and clarity, we are better able to make a decision on how to move forward, if that is what is required.
For many of us, when undesirable situations occur and we slip into a state of resistance, our judgment becomes impaired and our inner guidance distorted because of our emotionally charged state.
However, when we institute the practice of acceptance by surrendering to what is in that moment, we maintain our inner peace, while uncovering the gifts the experience is presenting.
Resistance or non-acceptance robs us of the opportunities each moment and experience are always offering because we get caught in the mental position that the undesirable situation should not have happened. Such thoughts only lead us down a never-ending rabbit hole to more and more emotional distress.
Imagine for a moment that a glass you were carrying fell to the ground and shattered into several pieces. How would you respond? Would you immediately accept the fact that the glass fell, or would you spend time lamenting over the fallen glass? My guess is the latter.
This is what usually happens. We spend a lot of time lamenting over the fact that the glass fell, over something we simply cannot change; unless of course we have access to a time machine. And because we don’t have access to time machines, at least I don’t think we do… we cannot change the occurrence of certain events. Focusing on what could have been or what should have been is both futile and energy draining.
Don’t you agree that our attention will be better spent on the next best steps forward? And this can only occur from a place of acceptance.
That eureka moment seven years ago changed my life forever. It not only changed my then living situation to a more peaceful and comfortable one, but it also preserved my relationship.
Through the practice of acceptance, I was able to see that my partner and his sons had an already established culture, before I moved in, which was working for them. And while it was not necessarily in line with my ideals, nothing was wrong with it. So instead of trying to change things to what I wanted, we all learnt how to develop a hybrid that worked for everyone.
Acceptance is truly the key to freedom because it releases us from the mental and emotional torments associated with resistance. It helps us to embrace the space being created for something new to emerge, despite the seemingly negative appearance of change.
An affirmation I learnt from Eckhart Tolle, which helped me all those years ago and continues to help me today, especially when faced with undesirable experiences is, “This moment is exactly as it is meant to be.” I repeat this affirmation for as long as I need to, which always reminds me to be present and accepting of what is.
It is important to note that self-awareness and personal responsibility are important tenants in the practice of acceptance. Self-awareness is the tool which helps you to catch yourself in the moments you slip into states of non-resistance, usually marked by mental and emotional disturbance. And taking personal responsibility ensures that you take charge of your life, rather than fall into the trap of blaming others for your chosen state.
Instituting acceptance in your life is a powerful practice, which is guaranteed to bring peace of mind, happiness, grace, wisdom and clarity.
“When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life.” – Eckhart Tolle